Letter to the Editor – Where Ontario Began

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Dear Editor,

Where Ontario Began: A Response to “Council Meeting: Development” (ND Times, March 17, 2021) and “Sustainability: Sustainable Development” (ND Times, March 17, 2021)

It’s been nice to see some discourse on sustainability and sustainable developments within the local news. When we hear what council has been asked to focus on – town developments – it is not a surprise considering our proximity to The City. However, as a young mother who has lived and breathed North Dundas my entire life, and whose family chose to settle here for the rural and natural community, I want council to truly consider what it really means to live here in North Dundas, SD&G: Where Ontario Began.

“Ontario” existed long before we showed up. There are still Indigenous communities that live here. Indigenous communities that are not separate from the air, water, soil and energy that flows through the land. Natural communities composed of all the living things: the trees, the plants, the fungi, the bugs, the critters, the birds, the creatures… Ontario may have “began” here, and so perhaps the Ontario that we have built, the one that is causing harm, needs to start passing on here too.

We have an opportunity to truly model rehabilitation and reconciliation. Something that our Federal and Provincial governments have clearly struggled to grasp as we witness them continuing to inflict harm upon established communities. Communities who want to sustain themselves. Communities who have shown such strength and commitment to supporting each other as they navigate this pandemic and as they try to look forward to what life will hold once we reach greener pastures. We will survive this, but our community may not survive urban sprawl and capital-colonialism if we don’t start critically thinking about how we will preserve our community’s spirit going forwards.

Kemptville, though slightly beyond our borders, is not separate from us. The Province is trying to build a prison where the Kemptville College Farm once stood to teach animal husbandry, crop management and practical knowledge that held such value for our rural farms and families. The Province has chosen to replace those positive memories with one of enforcement and fear. The overlooming shadow of incarceration and detention should one not comply with the rules and regulations enforced by, dare I say it, an increasingly undiplomatic government. There was no consultation to the communities and families and individuals who have made their homes within Kemptville. Those people whose lives revolve around that land. The Province told them that it was a done deal and the Municipal council echoed that. There will be a special council meeting held on March 23 to address the increasing concerns from community members about this top-down attitude. Democracy isn’t top-down. People are the foundation. People are the change makers.

North Dundas hasn’t experienced what that threat to community feels like. Yet.

North Dundas, South Dundas, and the counties and communities that comprise SD&G have an opportunity to pivot. Where Ontario began to stop perpetuating colonialism and harm. Where Ontario began to divest from harmful governing practices and turned back to the people to listen. Where Ontario began to observe the natural communities that we are not separate from. Where Ontario began to decolonize and reinvest into the blood of our communities.

For a farmer, water is blood.
For a farmer, water is life.
For a farmer, water is sacred.
For a farmer, water is rain.

For each and every member of this community, touched or involved in farming somehow, observing how that water needs to flow through the soil, through our bodies, through our crops so that we can not only make a living, but simply live.

Water is life. Water is sacred.

The council is talking about water too, but to contain water in an unnatural system isn’t sustainable. It’s expensive. Instead of looking to expand an unsustainable town water and sewer infrastructure, I believe council needs to take a step back from the development push and re-evaluate. There is an election coming. We have a huge opportunity to pivot as a community from exponential and unsustainable growth to conservation and preservation. Let’s aim for the green zone, shall we.

How will we do that? Step one is to not further develop the town. Not right now. No more expansions. We need to nip unsustainable housing developments in the bud. That is not to say that there won’t be housing developments, but they need to reflect what it means to live here within our rural community. I hear many folks talk about how they don’t want to ever have to go to Kemptville again, or to Ottawa, and how they detest the developments that have happened there in a relatively short time. Those corporate industrial copy & pastes will consume Winchester in the blink of an eye if we let them.

Agriculture is how Ontario began. Agriculture will be how Ontario returns. We learned from the Indigenous communities, whether you like it or not; the foundational knowledge surrounding the ability to sustain a population here. We took that knowledge and tried to create industry. That industry – industrial agriculture – is not sustainable, and we see it continuing to destroy our environments by clear cutting, tile draining, dredging and displacing entire ecosystems. When we talk about sustainable developments, we need to not just be looking at the town. If we were wise, we would be spreading out our resources across the plenitude of small communities who have previously been drained in order to construct the town. You’re welcome, townies. But the majority of people who live here, choose to do so because “here” is still connected to the natural environment. The number of small farms that have sprung up should be an indicator of where we hold the potential to truly grow. The age of the thousand acre field is coming to a close. Regenerating the natural communities, of which we are not separate from, and returning life to the land may be the only thing that will protect us now.

SD&G: Where Ontario Began to heal.

Mannie Giles

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